I wasn’t entirely sure what the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA) would look like when the long-awaited launch date of April 18 approached. The suspense is finally over: it looks great.
The DPLAs not going to be a digital version of your local public library’s collections and services – at least, not yet. It is trying to do three things right now: pull together digital assets from major national and regional digital collections into a well-organized, unified, easily searchable portal; provide digital tools and metadata that others can use to build new applications; and provide national leadership in the effort to encourage open and collective access to our shared cultural record.
Though libraries have always enabled discovery, we didn’t call it that until it was a software layer. We had catalogs, we had indexes, we had databases, and we had too many of them. Discovery layers to the rescue! This expensive and tricky-to-implement software takes in a simple search query and retrieves sources from all of those different databases. For the busy lower-division undergraduate who doesn’t need to fine-tune a search when all he needs is five scholarly articles, it offers something as easy as Google. Only … it turns out, maybe not. Because Google puts a lot into tweaking the relevance formula; discovery layers have a hard time being as slick. And in the end, students still have the same frustration. Turns out, it wasn’t that they couldn’t find sources. They simply weren’t finding the perfect source. And discovery layers don’t make that any easier.
This neatly summarizes my own personal skepticism about discovery layer systems. I would much rather point the students to a guide for their subject, which has stuff I’ve personally picked out with the most-likely-to-be-helpful database at the top of the list. But maybe that’s just me. :)
And, as always, the rest of the article is well worth reading.
Let’s face it: Google is an academic resource. We all use it – students, researchers, and yes, even us librarians. I unashamedly include “Google literacy” in my library instruction – teaching students how to be better Googlers, how to link to the library from Google Scholar, and how to evaluate the sources they find on Google.How good a Googler are you? Did you know that you can use Google to…
I’m a librarian. My brand is Search. And I do a lot of searching every day, and I know a lot of fancy ways of making that search go well for me (much of the time). But today a chance comment underscored something I think I’ve always known: good searching really isn’t about Search, or at least not in the way that people think of Search.
Definitely read the whole thing, because it’s so true.
A quick note to point out that the wonderful C-SPAN Video Library allows users to keyword search a mechanically generated transcript of last night’s debate and then easily view the video where the words are spoken. You can also embed the entire debate or specific portions of the program.
Two timelines are available for research.
1. “Text Timeline” with Search Box.
You can limit to words spoken by Lehrer, Obama, and Romney.
2. Graphical Timeline
Cursor over names to view transcript
A cool exposition of how libraries have built optimal sorting and searching algorithms for humans. It’s a neat parallel between the physical and the digital.
Dear fellow librarians, people who are returning to education as adults are easily scared away by overly complicated messages. Think about the content, timing and delivery of your messages from your customers and potential customers perspective, not from your own perspective. If you make them feel stupid or scare them off the first time they hear about you they are unlikely to ever come back because they have plenty of other ways to get just enough information that is just good enough for their purposes. Except for the very small number who are planning to take library courses they just do not need to know what a nested Boolean search is, most especially they do not need to know it in week one of their three or four year degree.
I would say that almost everyone is scared away by overly complicated messages, especially when it comes to them needing to find information to complete a task. (There’s a reason that Google is the prominent search engine! How much simpler can you get?)
Given that library systems are rather dumb on their own, librarians have been forced to focus so much effort on absurdly long and/or specific search strategies just to make the system cough up something even remotely relevant. Which is sad and somewhat pathetic. We as a profession should be able to do better than that by now. (And why are these things being taught when the search option provided by the library doesn’t even accept them? Something is wrong there.)
The semantic web is coming to Google…
To provide answers that aren’t already in Google’s ever-expanding database, the company will blend new semantic-search technology with its current system to better recognize the value of information on websites and figure out which ones to show in search results. It would do so by examining a Web page and identifying information about specific entities referenced on it, rather than only look for keywords.
Okay, so… I don’t know if this will be of use anyone but me, but I was trying to go over the Computers in Libraries sessions (both those I attended and those I didn’t) to find what I could of the presentation slides/handouts/blog posts and I was getting bogged down in links and files, so I made these lists of links. If anyone knows of stuff that could be on here that I missed, do let me know (use the ‘ask me anything’ link).
One of Google’s own, Chief Internet Evangalist (and Internet inventor) Vint Cerf, has joined the growing chorus of voices warning of the possible end to Google’s dominance. ”There’s nothing to stop someone from developing better technology than we have and to invent something even more powerful and efficient and effective,” Cerf said speaking at the National Media Museum… .
U.S. Search Market since 2008 [infographic]
Other than February being the shortest month, any guesses about why it has the lowest number of search queries?
My speculations: it’s not midterms/end of semester on the academic calendar; everyone already knows the typical gifts for Valentine’s Day (Christmas is vastly more difficult); people have already given up on their resolutions so there aren’t any more (or as many) searches for gyms/diets; it’s winter in most of the country so there aren’t any ‘what’s this plant?’ or gardening-type searches …
There is often talk about the loss of serendipity due to libraries moving more to closed stacks but I’m starting to disagree. It’s not about losing what’s in the stacks– it’s about greater access to content that is linked together more effectively. We’re in the growing pains stage right now, but imagine what it could become. It could be another new information revolution. This isn’t about just migrating print to a digital platform, but building an integrated and immersive experience. Building personal collections that talk with each other and then add more to that collection.
If discovery and serendipity are really the desired outcomes then you should prefer access to such an interlinked digital knowledge universe. This would ensure that you stumble upon books and other content from other disciplines– not just the ones at eye level the next shelf over.
Note that disabling Viewing and Search History in your YouTube account will not prevent Google from gathering and storing this information and using it for internal purposes. It also does not change the fact that any information gathered and stored by Google could be sought by law enforcement.
(All of my accounts just gave me the option to turn the history on, so apparently I never enabled it to begin with.)